Original Article

Environmental Fluid Mechanics

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 1335-1355

First online:

On the periodicity of atmospheric von Kármán vortex streets

  • Christopher G. NunaleeAffiliated withDepartment of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University Email author 
  • , Sukanta BasuAffiliated withDepartment of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University

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For over 100 years, laboratory-scale von Kármán vortex streets (VKVSs) have been one of the most studied phenomena within the field of fluid dynamics. During this period, countless publications have highlighted a number of interesting underpinnings of VKVSs; nevertheless, a universal equation for the vortex shedding frequency (\(N\)) has yet to be identified. In this study, we have investigated \(N\) for mesoscale atmospheric VKVSs and some of its dependencies through the use of realistic numerical simulations. We find that vortex shedding frequency associated with mountainous islands, generally demonstrates an inverse relationship to cross-stream obstacle length (\(L\)) at the thermal inversion height of the atmospheric boundary layer. As a secondary motive, we attempt to quantify the relationship between \(N\) and \(L\) for atmospheric VKVSs in the context of the popular Strouhal number (\(Sr\))–Reynolds number (\(Re\)) similarity theory developed through laboratory experimentation. By employing numerical simulation to document the \(Sr{-}Re\) relationship of mesoscale atmospheric VKVSs (i.e., in the extremely high \(Re\) regime) we present insight into an extended regime of the similarity theory which has been neglected in the past. In essence, we observe mesoscale VKVSs demonstrating a consistent \(Sr\) range of 0.15–0.22 while varying \(L\) (i.e, effectively varying \(Re\)).


Island wakes Marine boundary layer Stably stratified flows Strouhal number Von Kármán vortex street